Ruby Walker was a 15-year-old sophomore at Hays High School when she dropped out.
"I was just really, really depressed," she says. "I was faking sick a lot. My mom knew it, but she let me stay home sometimes anyways."
Now an 18-year-old freshman at Trinity University in San Antonio, Walker chronicles what she was feeling during that time in "Advice I Ignored: Stories and Wisdom From a Formerly Depressed Teen." The book is available through Amazon.
"Advice I Ignored" is told in quick bites with stories, advice she received and steps she took. She also illustrates the book with pictures that are a deep reflection of what it feels like to be a depressed teen.
"I was supposed to be doing home school, but it didn’t really happen," she says. Instead, she spent a lot of time alone.
She thought that if she changed her environment, if she didn’t have to deal with school or people, that her depression would improve, but it didn’t.
"The environment change took some pressure off, but I still had the same problems," she says.
She became like a ghost. Her friends even made jokes about her being dead, which was confusing on the rare occasions when she would show up at social gatherings.
Then something changed. She talked to herself differently. She began to set little goals for each day. Goals like get out of bed or take a shower. They were doable goals.
She began to see the world differently, and it showed in her behavior. She started dressing differently and smiling at people on the street.
"A lot of people were confused as to how I got from Point A to Point B," she says.
At 16, she started writing this book. "I remembered very vividly exactly how those things had felt," she says. "I don’t think I could have written it now."
The book, she says, is for kids like her, but of course, parents who have kids like her can read it, too, and maybe have a better understanding of what is going on.
"It's really hard to open up and tell other people what you're going through, but it's really worth it," she says, even if you’re in your first semester of college and you’ve just published a book of all of your secrets from high school. Her book covers topics such as why she was depressed in the first place, why she became a cutter, why she drank to avoid feeling.
This book, she now realizes, was "writing a letter to my 14-year-old self. I hope somebody who feels like I did back then reads it and gets it."
She made it filled with pictures because she remembers that when she was low on energy, there would have been no way she could have read a thick, dense book.
"I think it's nice for parents to read, but I wrote it with people who are struggling in mind," she says. "People who want to support a loved one who feels like that could probably get something, too."
It can help them try to understand what it’s like, she says.
She thinks her mom said all the right things: "You’re going to get through this," and, "It feels bad now, but it’s going to be all right."
At the time, the advice felt annoying. "I was like, ’Oh, big eye roll,’ but it became really important to me later. It's important that she said them, that I had that as a memory later on. It's important to hear good things from people even if you're not ready to hear it."
Changing the way she talked to herself was key for Walker. Her mother had always told her that she shouldn’t be so hard on herself, that she shouldn’t say mean things to herself. "I just kind of ignored it," she says. "I didn't care to implement it until it got so bad, I had to swallow my pride."
"There’s a certain amount of arrogance that goes into hating yourself," she says. "Everyone else has a baseline of respect and benefit of the doubt (that you give them). It takes a bit of hubris to think that I’m different."
Instead, she says, she chose to be "happy with a vengeance." She kept repeating good things about herself over and over again and changed the dialogue in her head, even if she didn’t believe it at first.
"It was a really big first step: intervening in the mental process of how I talked to myself," she says. "I had a belief now that a good part of my personality is the stories I tell myself over and over again. That is what becomes real. Even if I didn't believe I was a good person or a worthwhile person, if I pretended that, at least it felt a little closer to that."
She also learned that for her life to work, she had to exercise on a daily basis and she had to get enough sleep.
Now she knows she’s slipping back into not taking care of herself when she’s too busy to eat or sleep. But it never quite feels the way it did.
"When I was a young teen, I felt like if I fell there was no bottom," she says. "Even if I'm having a bad day now, I have this very sure underlying sense that I'm going to be OK. In many ways, I didn’t have that before."